Big Debt For Folk Fest

Facing mounting debt, the American Folk Festival in Bangor, Maine, will likely have to charge admission if there’s to be an event next year. Organizers released figures Sept. 22 showing the event $130,000 in the red.

“We are at a sobering crossroads,” festival board chairman Maria Baeza said at a press conference, according to the Bangor Daily News. The $130,000 debt has accumulated since 2006. “It’s a very scary reality, and it’s one we take very seriously.”

Added executive director Heather McCarthy, “It’s become more than we can continue to carry. … We aren’t able to fully pay off the costs of the 2009 festival. If it hadn’t rained on Saturday, perhaps that wouldn’t have happened. Nevertheless, that’s the reality.”

Creditors were unknown at press time.

Organizers now seek feedback on whether fans would be willing to pay admission to attend the event. Organizers say the guaranteed revenue stream would obviously help and tickets would be in the $5-$15 range, the paper reported.

“Nothing is off the table,” McCarthy said. “We want to hear from people on how we can fix this problem and continue to have this incredible event here in Bangor.” A donation offset losses in 2005, the paper said, but 2006 through 2008 saw losses of about $97,000, $28,000 and $38,000 respectively.

Figures released to the Daily News showed that 2009’s event cost about $1 million to stage, with most of the expenses coming from production ($269,000) followed by programming costs ($259,000). Considering this year’s financial troubles, 2009’s event was in the red by a comparatively small $9,300. This year’s fest included Clinton Fearon, Cherish The Ladies, and Rob Curto’s Forro For All.

McCarthy told the paper that the organizers become more efficient each year in putting the event together and blamed this year’s debt on loss of revenue from “Bucket Brigade” donations as well as lost beer tent and souvenir sales on the rained-out Saturday of the festival.

Previous folk festivals have included Bettye LaVette, Del McCoury Band, Grupo Fantasma and Eternal Tango.